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Cal State Fullerton lockdown: search focuses on Mihaylo Hall

December 12, 2012 | 10:13 pm

 Cal State Fullerton on lockdown as police search for a suspect at  Mihaylo Hall. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times

Cal State Fullerton University remained on lockdown late Wednesday as police focused their search on one building on the southeast end of campus.

About 400 staff and students are held inside Steven G. Mihaylo Hall, a 200,000-square-foot business and economics structure, where a suspect was last spotted.

The fugitive and four others were involved in an armed robbery earlier in the day in Moreno Valley. They shot an employee, then led police on a wild car chase that spanned four counties. After they stopped at Cal State Fullerton, two of the men were captured. Two others ran away, and one reportedly went into Mihaylo Hall. The fifth was caught in Watts shortly after.

Alarms rang throughout the campus about 4 p.m., alerting students to the incident. While people have been evacuated from other structures, Mihaylo remains locked down. Police had searched about three-quarters of the building as of 8 p.m. Campus Chief of Police Dennis DeMaio could not estimate how much longer it would take.

“It’s a slow-moving process because you're checking every hallway, every student and having to identify them," he said.

Though the hall is the focus of police, DeMaio said officials were not sure that the suspect was still in the building.

At this point, police are not searching any other structures.

After four hours of captivity, students were getting antsy and beginning to leave the building, said Sgt. Jeff Stuart with Fullerton Police.

“Unfortunately for us, that’s a real problem,” he said.

Jessica Thompson, a 26-year old senior at Cal State Fullerton, was among those who demanded to leave.

She first went to the campus library at 2 p.m. with the intent of finishing two essays for class. Then alarms went off.

"I thought it was a school shooting," Thompson said.

For the next several hours, she worked on her essays but then became antsy. Her 8-month-old daughter recently had brain surgery and she needed to get home to care for the baby.

"You had to demand your way out," she said.

She said she called the Police Department and asked to leave and police told her they couldn't be accountable if she walked through campus.

Although she was scared, she said she walked through the empty campus, with helicopters buzzing and police tape everywhere.

Shortly after 8 p.m. she found her fiance, who had waited hours for her to come out.


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Photo: Cal State Fullerton on lockdown as police search for a suspect at  Mihaylo Hall. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times